The race that ended the career of star speedster Lucky Bubbles 12 months ago will not have a Hong Kong runner this time around, but the Group One Sprinters Stakes (1,200m) still promises to hold plenty of intrigue for punters at Nakayama on Sunday.
Lucky Bubbles suffered a suspensory injury in last year’s race as Godolphin’s Fine Needle surged to victory but while the reigning champion has headed off to the breeding barn, the Godolphin blue will again feature in the race in the form of improving four-year-old Tower Of London.
Tower Of London finished second behind Danon Smash – who he meets again in this race – in the Group Three Keeneland Cup (1,200m) in August but was back in the winner’s circle three weeks ago when saluting in the Group Two Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes (1,200m).
It was a win that came in record time, with Tower Of London matching the 1:06.70 produced by superstar Lord Kanaloa in the 2012 Sprinters Stakes – the two-time Hong Kong Sprint winner’s best 1,200m time.
After placing at Group One level over a mile in 2017, Tower Of London has been refashioned as a straight-up sprinter in recent months and assistant trainer Hideyuki Chishima was impressed with what he saw from the horse last time out.
“He’s done well having two races in quick succession, and has handled the heat and the transportation well,” he said.
“It was just his third start over 1,200 meters last time but he changed gears impressively when it mattered and then ran on strongly down the outside from the final turn.”
Danon Smash, who is a son of Lord Kanaloa, is also chasing his first Group One win and is shaping as the favourite on the back of his strong 1,200m form.
Danon Smash’s trainer Takayuki Yasuda has a rich history in the Sprinters Stakes, landing a hat-trick in the race with Curren Chan (2011) and Lord Kanaloa (2012 and 2013) and he is confident his charge can bring him glory once more.
“It was a big result last time [in the Keeneland Cup], when you consider the draw he had and that he had to take the outside route all the way,” the trainer said.
“He showed a lot of class to hold the horse on the inside at the finish. He’s been working well back at the stable since that trip to Sapporo.”